What Story Are You Telling?


February 22, 2024
5 min read

Our values inform our behavior, and our behavior informs the story we tell.


Everyone has their own proclivities, emotions, and challenges. The earth is full of walking, talking stories. While we celebrate our uniqueness and differences, we all share the responsibility to steward the narratives we speak over our lives. 

As leaders, we have to take inventory of the stories we tell ourselves, each other, our teams, and our organizations. There are repercussions to what we say – are we telling a good story or a bad one? 

Good storytellers understand that words have power. Leaders live with the mindset that we is greater than me. They leverage their teams to win. Accomplishments are made together. When one department wins, every department wins. It’s another area to watch what we say. What stories are we telling our teams? What narrative are we constructing?  

Numbers 13:31-14:4 gives us great indicators that inform us when we start to tell a bad story. 

The passage reads, “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’ That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’”

This passage puts the Israelites’ behavior on display. Behavior is a window into our values and mindsets. As leaders, we have to learn to pay attention to our behaviors — what’s on the outside is a reflection of what’s on the inside, giving us a glimpse at areas that might need to change and restore. 

Our values inform our behavior, and our behavior informs the story we tell. There are five behaviors that indicate bad storytelling. 

1. Negative Exaggeration of Their Situation

When the Israelites explored the promised land, 10 of the 12 returned with a negative report. They puffed up their enemy while simultaneously taking a shot at themselves, saying their enemies were like giants and they seemed like grasshoppers. Even if our obstacles really are giants, we are not made small in the process. Bad storytellers exaggerate circumstances with a negative lens, magnifying challenges and minimizing themselves. As leaders, we must learn to look through a lens of expectation, speaking life and faith over our situations.

2. Led By Their Emotions

Emotions are a great indicator but a terrible guide. Our thoughts are influenced by our circumstances, and our feelings follow our thoughts. As leaders, we have to learn how to be aware of the things and people who influence our thoughts. Most of the time, we start thinking about things that aren’t even true — just because something feels real doesn’t mean it’s reality. We must learn to be led by conviction, not by emotions. Conviction tells an honest story, emotions tell a false one. 

3. Participate in Group Grumbling

Misery loves company, and grumbling spreads to the group. We see it in the Israelites – they all began to grumble about their situation. When a bad storyteller is overwhelmed, afraid, or hurting, they search for others who feel the same. When gossip and chatter show up in our teams and community, division and bitterness begin to grow. As leaders, we can’t jump into the pit with others when they come to us with complaints. Our response should be to listen and help solve the problem. We do not have to consign with complaining.

4. Glorify the Past Over the Future

Have you ever met someone who lives in the past? They always seem to be talking about the good old days. The Israelites continued to look back to their time in Egypt, glorifying the good things and forgetting the bad. Good storytellers believe that nothing about the future is behind them – it’s always in front. Many times, we choose to follow the comfortable pattern instead of stepping into the unknown. The truth is that God is not limited to how He moved in the past. It’s inevitable that things will change – the only question is if we are willing to change, too.

5. Rebel Against Authority

As the story with the Israelites continues, they begin to rebel against their leaders. It’s good for us to bring our doubts and questions to God – the problem starts when we begin to question God’s authority. When we doubt His intention in our lives, we begin to question the spiritual authority He has given us on this earth. Good storytellers trust that God has everything under control. 

If any of these behaviors indicate that you might be on the path to telling a bad story, the good news is that you are able to tell a different one. We are not bound to a negative narrative. As we discover behaviors that need to change, we can be transformed by the renewing of our kinds. We can confront the reality of where we are and bridge the gap to be led by an internal compass, not by external circumstances. 

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